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In Wilbon's World

Chat House: The Addition

Each week I'll post a question or two I didn't get to during The Chat House and respond. Today's topics: Black quarterbacks, the NBA and the Baltimore Ravens' quick start.

Re: black quarterbacks: Mike, I generally agree with your response to the question, including the fact that many people stereotype white athletes as well. I would disagree in two ways. One, when you say "the game's too fast for the guy" you're questioning his intelligence in the only way that matters, his football intellect. So if you cite Shuler as an example of this, you are questioning his intelligence. I think there are a number of white quarterbacks who've failed who fit that mold (Ryan Leaf and Kyle Boller come to mind as well).

Two, sometimes this is true of black quarterbacks. What other explanation is there for Michael Vick's status as a QB? Remember, before his off-the-field problems, people were questioning his play with the Falcons. It looked to me like he couldn't grasp all the mental demands of an NFL offense.

That's not a racial insult, it's just my opinion from watching years of football and seeing lots of QBs (white and black) fail.

Michael Wilbon: Your point is absolutely legit; not all black QBs are up to the intellectual challenge posed by the position and all its demands. But some of those inadequacies are physical, not mental. I think that's the point the person commenting and I were making. Michael Vick's issues, by the way, both on the field and off it, resulted largely from his arrogance. He wasn't ever the first guy at the practice facility but was often the first one out of the building. When he led the Falcons past Brett Favre and the Packers up in Green Bay, making it the first playoff game the Packers had ever lost at Lambeau, it didn't look like he was lacking in intelligence or anything else. I'd argue that Vick was so cocky he never even gave himself the chance to maximize his ability. Did he sabotage his own career? Yes, absolutely, and by definition that is stupid. But does it mean he lacks the intelligence to play the position well? I don't think so. At best, how do we know? My issue is, we rarely ever hear that charge leveled at white QBs.

You clearly don't have this kind of prejudice, but many do. People do what's easiest when it comes to passing judgment; they fall back on what they know. And even as new generations know more about different kinds of people, we're not so far removed from some uglier times that we're totally above taking the lazy way out. We still tend to give black athletes the benefit of the doubt when it comes to physicality but not intelligence and question a white athlete's physicality but not his intelligence. It happens so much less than it used to, but certainly hasn't disappeared from our presumptions.

Port Au Prince, Haiti: Michael; I'm excited because NBA camps open up next week -- but it seems strange, because so many of the contenders seemed to subtract by adding. I meant that the way I said it -- the Lakers replacing Ariza with Artest means they replaced a solid defender/spot-up shooter and guy who understood the Triange with a ball-stops-here type with "a history". The Celtics signing Rasheed, while letting Leon Powe go to Cleveland makes them older and more likely to lose a game late due to a Rasheed freak-out. I'm not one of these people that see Shaq as a great addition to the Cavs, especially if it's specifically to stop Dwight Howard (After all, that was the premise the Suns used, that Shaq was supposed to stop Tim Duncan -- and that thought ended about the time Timmy hit the three in the playoff game); but adding Powe, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon might be more important.

As for the Magic, there's something off about moving Rafer Alston -- who might have been the biggest reason Orlando got to the Finals -- and allowing Hedo Turkoglu to leave, but bringing in Vince Carter.

Which is why I'd look at San Antonio -- which added with Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess -- and the Suns, who in losing Shaq get to do two things: go back to playing SSOL basketball and move Amare Stoudemire back to center (If STAT was out of position as a center in '04-'05 and '06-'07 -- when he was 1st Team All-NBA both years -- I could live with that).

But this season really might set the table for the next five years, because of next summer -- the free agency class; and I just don't mean The Big Three. I keep reminding people that Kevin Durant is a restricted free agent. If the Knicks can't pull LeBron, they could put together a package for Kevin Durant that Clay Bennett might not be able to match (And it would serve him right ...). What story lines do you believe will develop this year?

Michael Wilbon: Boy, I don't know where to start...I like the fact that you don't buy into the conventional (read: easy) wisdom. If there is a common thread it's that the best teams are trying desperately to win and will do anything. I might lean in your direction regarding the Lakers, who just won a championship with Trevor Ariza playing an important role. He's a person who knows how to play off a superstar (Kobe Bryant, of course) who some teammates find difficult to compliment. Ariza plays defense, doesn't need the ball much as you accurately state, and is economical. Artest, talented as he is, is in no way an economical player.

The thing about Rasheed Wallace, annoying as he often is, is that he doesn't want to be The Star, which he needed to be more than he was the last couple of seasons in Detroit. In Boston, he'll be behind Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and even Glen (Big Baby) Davis. He's still an awfully difficult matchup at 6-foot-11 with that skill set. I think he's a great addition for the Celtics, largely because Leon Powe, who is a totally underrated talent in the low block, will miss some time to start the season as he recovers from knee surgery.

In Cleveland, Shaq doesn't have to stop anybody; he only has to help LeBron James be even greater, and I think Shaq is absolutely up for that task. I don't think the Suns will be better at all; I think the Suns, as much as I love the principal players remaining and Alvin Gentry, will be hard pressed to make the playoffs, even with Amare Stoudemire healthy. The Spurs seemed to help themselves immeasurably, but I don't like at all what Orlando has done, essentially getting Vince Carter to replace Hedo Turkoglu. So many people around the NBA love the move; I hate it. It presumes that Carter, who has always been a me-first player, is going to set the table for others including Dwight Howard the way Turkoglu did. Carter has never been that kind of passer, never been deferential or nurturing to younger players. Now, he's back home in the Orlando-area and he knows this is his best chance to win. But I don't see Carter's personality, demeanor or talents as what Orlando needs to replace what the Magic loses in Turkoglu.

It won't take as long as some might think to start to get some answers to these questions. Training camps start in a week or so and the interminable NBA season is only five weeks away...Oh one more thing: stop waiting on the Knicks, who could be the most irrelevent and overhyped franchise in all of American sports. The Knicks last won in the early 1970s and since then it's been mostly disappointments (except the two trips to the Finals in the 1990s). Only New Yorkers think the Knicks are hugely important to the NBA. They aren't.

Boston: Mike,

The Ravens didn't even attempt a field goal until late in the 4th quarter yesterday? They are not doing a very good job of following the blueprint to their last Super Bowl championship. Discuss.

Michael Wilbon: Well, even though Phil Rivers torched the Ravens defense for a career-best 436 passing yards Sunday, the Ravens still used half of their old Super Bowl formula to beat the Chargers and go 2-0 this season: defense. The signature play of Baltimore's victory in San Diego, no matter how many yards Baltimore allowed, was Ray Lewis' game-ending kill-shot on Chargers runner Darren Sproles on fourth down. But I know what you mean because a down-field passing attack and 31 points isn't what we came to expect of the Ravens, who tried one QB after another after letting Trent Dilfer go (ill advisedly) following the Super Bowl season. But Joe Flacco, like Atlanta's Matt Ryan, hasn't started the season as if he's worried about any kind of sophomore slump. Flacco threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns in San Diego and he's 6-3 in road starts in his 20 games. In the opener against the Chiefs, seven of Baltimore's first eight plays were passes. And 20 of the team's amazing 32 first downs came via the forward pass. Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason and Todd Heap are hardly household names but they're more reliable than some bigger name divas catching passes in the NFL. And if the Ravens can throw it like they have in the first two weeks a lot of preseason forecasts (gulp) are going to look foolish. Right now, the Ravens look like they could be the best team in the AFC.

Read the full transcript of Monday's Chat House here.


Michael Wilbon

 |  September 22, 2009; 9:49 AM ET  |  Category:  NBA , NFL , Ravens , The Chat House Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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You sir have not seen VC play last year or in the last few years for more than 1 or 2 games.
That is all.
Don't talk about a player if you see him play twice a season.
Vince is so easy to knock on, some people even will go to the extent to say that he was too unselfish last year.
Come on now. I would never write an article about apples. Because I can't remember the last time I ate one...
Good day.

Posted by: benrenden | September 23, 2009 4:07 PM
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@roland737 -
I think Wilbon is correct in stating that the Knicks franchise is "overhyped" in the sense that they are a major market team with a self delusional importance that makes the owner spend money like the Yankees. But, while the baseball salary cap is basically meaningless, the NBA salary cap has to be managed intelligently for a franchise to remain relevant. The Knicks are one of the classic NBA teams much like the Lakers, Boston and San Antonio. Madison Square Garden is still one of the pre-eminent venues in sports. I believe that the "overhyped" label really stems from the fact the only thing they have going for them is the fact that they are a big market team. This alone has catapulted them into the list of classic NBA teams.
It is really too bad that the Knicks have squandered their big market status again and again. Their payroll is probably limitless and it has shown as they have signed bad contract after bad contract and yet they let Ariza walk away for basically nothing. The good news for Knicks fans is that they are finally going to be under the cap in 2010. The bad news is that they want to sign a superstar free agent solely upon the strength of their big market status. Yes, they have some good young talent, but because they think they are in the Lebron sweepstakes, they will have to take a chance on not being able to keep their young talent (i.e. David Lee and Nate Robinson both signing one year deals to keep the Knicks viable in 2010 free agency.) The only young talent they have left is Wilson Chandler and Jordan Hill. So, while the Knicks' future is looking a little brighter than in the last decade, they still have a long way to go. Basically they are putting all their eggs in one basket in 2010. They need to make a big splash in order to make up for years of incompetence.

Posted by: JonwongSunsFan | September 23, 2009 2:41 PM
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How are the Knicks overhyped? All people do is trash them no matter what they do. They clear cap space for the 2010 free agency spree, and people criticize them for it. They make shortsighted signings and create a salary cap disaster, and they are criticized for it. They refuse to overpay for David Lee and they are criticized for it, yet if they gave Lee the 10 million per that he wwas asking for, people were saying that that would be crazy to pay him that much. not only that, but writers constantly refuse to acknowledge that teh team actually does have some young talent right now, and has a coherent plan in place to get back to the top of the league. But all I see are descriptions such as, "no talent", "a mess", "no plan", "joke", etc. So, if what you mean by "overhyped" is constant criticism and ridicule, then you are correct.

Posted by: roland737 | September 23, 2009 11:05 AM
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Mike, I am listening to Mr. Tony's podcast as I write this question. Are Cindy Boren, Mr. Tony and you ever planning on resurrecting 'Talking Points' on the web? I was a regular follower of it. I am am a big fan of PTI. Since I live in Omaha it's nice to hear other sports views.

Posted by: chuckm41 | September 22, 2009 4:04 PM
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